Thursday, July 04, 2013

Guest Post by G.E. Nolly

Joe sez: If you've missed the previous guest blogs, they've been fascinating and informative.

You can read Patrick Balester talking about how he learned to love e-publishing here:

You can read Shantnu Tiwari talking about publishing cliches here:

You can read Mike Dennis talking about noir here:

You can read Douglas Dorow talking about the publishing game here:

You can read Iain Rob Wright's 10 self-publishing tips here:

You can read about Tracy Sharp talking about just doing it here:

You can read about AJ Abbiati's Transliterator here:

And now here's George Nolly...

First of all, a huge THANK YOU to Tess and Joe! In all honesty, I probably wouldn’t have made a donation without the kick in the ass Joe provided, but as soon as I clicked “submit” I felt great. And, like most of us, I know people affected by the devastation of Alzheimer’s.

I’ve been a writer for a little over 50 years, since my senior year in high school. When I look back at my early fiction, I can’t believe I had written such immature crap. But I sent it out, and got rejection slips from paying publications, and occasionally got some ink space from non-paying markets that felt sorry for me. Quick story: as a 17-year-old, I submitted what I had thought was a really great short story to Playboy Magazine. I told all my friends I was going to be published in Playboy. Naturally, it was rejected. But, around the same time, I had sent $50 to join the Playboy Club, and received a $50 refund check from Playboy, since I was too young to join. SO, I showed my friends the check and told them I had received an advance on the article Playboy was going to publish! I suppose that lie was my first successful fiction.

In the intervening years since college, all of my published work has been nonfiction. Publication in magazines massaged my ego, but didn’t earn me much money. Last year, I decided to try my hand at fiction again and write about my experiences as a pilot in Vietnam, with names changed and stories embellished. In truth, I’ve always been terrified of dialog. All I could think of was “he said”, “she said”, etc. But I really wanted to open a vein and spill my guts. And I wanted to tell some war stories, both mine and those of my friends. In case you’re not familiar with the difference between a war story and a fairy tale, a war story begins “This is no shit”, while a fairy tale begins “Once upon a time”. After that, there’s not much difference!

A funny thing happened when I started writing the novel. I didn’t think about dialog, or plot, or anything else. I just started writing, and my characters just started talking and doing things on their own, things I had never anticipated. They went rogue! And my Kindle novel, Hamfist Over The Trail, turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. It’s a free download the 3rd and 4th of July. It’s received over a hundred reviews in the year since I wrote it, with an overall rating of 4.4 stars. I’m really thrilled with the cover image. It’s a picture I had seen on the internet, and it totally captures the mood of an airstrike in Vietnam. I searched far and wide to locate the artist. Virtually all of the internet postings had omitted artist attribution. I finally located the artist, Tony Stencel, and commissioned him to make a cover from his painting.
There was what some people considered a problem: the book has a cliff-hanger ending. I planned it that way, because : a) I wanted to sell a sequel and, b) I felt that it was the right place to end the book. There had been action, conflict and conflict resolution, so it was time for the book to end. Some of my favorite movies and shows have cliff-hanger endings, like Dexter, Mad Men and Back To The Future, Part II. And I already had the sequel pretty much finished. Hamfist Down! Was published in Kindle format two months later. I think it’s better, much better, than the first book. And the next sequel, Hamfist Over Hanoi, was written as a NaNoWriMo project and was published two months later. Each ebook sells for less than a latte at Starbucks. And I’ve also published all three in paperback through CreateSpace. I don’t sell a lot of those, but having a dead tree version has a certain cachet.

Most of my readers have been clamoring for more, but some of them have been unbelievably hostile. The negative reviewers view the cliff-hanger ending as simply a ploy to sell a sequel. When I read the first negative review, I was devastated for several days. But I got over it. I finally realized that my books are not for everyone.

Besides the aforementioned kick-in-the-ass to make a donation, Joe provided the same KITA for me to start writing my first novel. I discovered Joe’s blog in early 2012, and got the feeling like I used to get when I would learn how a magic trick was performed. I could envision that it was possible to actually make money publishing ebooks. And perception became reality. My first book sold pretty well, the second one sold better, and the third better yet. Now all three hover pretty much full-time in the top 10 for their genre, and, best of all, royalties have more than paid the mortgage every month this year. So, another THANK YOU to Joe!

I’ve consolidated all three books into one Kindle download, Hamfist Trilogy, and also have sections from the second and third book as a 99-cent download, Happy Hancock, (free download July 1st and 2nd) to showcase my writing and hopefully stimulate sales of the main books.

Right now I’m working on another first-person Hamfist book, and a third-person spinoff novel. I’m toying with the idea to occasionally release the Hamfist sequels as free downloads also, but I’m really apprehensive about giving away all my stuff! But, then again, it may help spur sales of previous books in the series if readers discover my sequels. So, I just need to screw up the courage to take a leap of faith.

This past year has been a great journey. And I finally feel like an author!

Joe sez: I love stories like this.

First of all, thanks for your service to our country, George. 

Second of all, there is so much joy, optimism, and life in this post that I can't help but download all three of your books. If your novels are like this blog post, I bet they'll be wonderful.

G.E. is proof positive that it's never too late or too early to start a career in fiction. That you're paying your mortgage with your writing at the young age of (66? 67? 68?) and that my blog played a part really makes me happy.

I get lots of emails from folks thanking me for the self-pubbing evangelism I've spewed on A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. So many that I can't answer them all. But I do take each one to heart, and it's nice to have a guest post success story.

My first rejection letter was when I was 18 years old. It was also from Playboy. A Harry McGlade short story (it was later contained in my ebook Banana Hammock). Harry later became a mainstay in my later novels. 

I'll never forget getting that rejection letter. Like Stephen King in On Writing, who put all of his rejections on a nail in the wall above his bed, I kept every one and considered them badges of honor.

Here's a pic of my rejection book.

It used to be in a smaller binder, but I had to get a bigger one when I passed 500 rejections (that sucker is 4 inches thick).

The irony of the picture (which I just took seconds ago) is that the rejection book sits atop my Twilight Zone pinball machine (I have seven pins, two arcade cabinets, and a bar dart machine). It's ironic because I bought all that crap with money I made from selling my rejected books on Kindle.

Last week I also bought my house. Cash.

My point? Paying your mortgage with self-pubbed books is awesome. But there is no limit to success. Four years ago, I was making $1400 a month. Now I make $90k-$130k a month.

I never could have imagined this happening, and it's my job to imagine things for a living.

Will every writer be able to buy a house filled with arcade surplus from their ebook sales? Hell no. I got really lucky.

But look at that pic of my rejections again. It's a paean to the past. Writers are no longer required to jump through hoops to reach an audience. No more querying agents and publishers. No more onerous, unconscionable contracts. No more waiting 18 months for publication after signing a deal.

We can do it all ourselves, without obstacles. Even if we're in our 60s and beyond.

If that doesn't inspire hope, I don't know what does. 


Charles R. Rutledge said...

Looking at that book of rejection slips all I can think is, "I am not working hard enough."
Thanks for the kick in the pants, Joe.

Veronica - Eloheim said...

Thanks for sharing that photo Joe. It really helps put it all in perspective. Now it's up to me to KEEP that perspective :)

Jill James said...

Thank you so much for this post. I turn 50 next month and finally feel my writing is going in the right direction. You are never too old. As long as the mind stays fit we can write our entire lives.

bettye griffin said...

I was told by an English professor that I might want to consider a career writing fiction. I immediately set out to writing short stories and novels...and just 22 short years later, age 41, my first novel was published. That was 15 years ago. I went indie four years ago, while still being traditionally published. There have only been a few times when I was able to pay the mortgage, but my earnings are looking better every month...even when I don't have a new release! And a good portion of my earnings goes into my retirement fund...It's never too late to launch a writing career.

I'm enjoying these guest posts. I hope to hear from authors who, like me, have had more modest success.

Joe Flynn said...

Congratulations, G.E. It sounds like you've really tuned in to your muse.

I, too, am a member of the Playboy rejection club. My highlight came with a handwritten rejection saying my submission was quite good but it felt more like a play to the editor.

I took that as a high compliment and kept on writing.

Jude Hardin said...

Nice post, George. Very inspirational.

We used to say the same thing about "sea stories" when I was in the navy, btw. Once upon a time... vs this is a no shitter...

And it's true. Most of those stories should I say...embellished. :)

Good practice for writing fiction, I suppose.

One of my early rejections (around 1980) was from The New Yorker, and they were right. The story wasn't good enough to be published. More recently, just a few years ago, I got a rejection from an agent, and I now realize that she was right too. The book I pitched wasn't ready for publication. I wasn't ready for publication.

But I didn't give up, and now I'm represented by that same agent who rejected me several years ago.

So there you go. Persistence is the key, and you and I (and Joe and so many others) are living proof of that. The only way to truly fail is to stop trying.

So congrats, and happy Fourth!

Alice M. Roelke said...

Wonderful post! Thank you! :)

C E said...

Yes, it does inspire confidence, Joe.

Mike Dennis said...

Great story, George! Your delayed success makes me think there's hope for me yet.

Alistair McIntyre said...

I love the positive energy in this post. Keep on rockin' and good luck with Happy Hancock.

Unknown said...

Truly inspirational! It is never too late.

Anonymous said...

George -
As a reader, I have a HUGE objection to cliff-hanger endings. In fact, I throw what may have been a very good book against the wall and refuse to ever read that author again. Books MUST have a beginning, a middle, and an END; otherwise, they aren't really books at all, just parts of books. Now, I haven't read your stories (books?) yet, and you give me a reason to, since you say they have resolution - so I'm willing to give them a try; and I loved what you wrote here, and that reinforces the idea of a trial. But if they truly are cliff-hangers, you'll lose me. Forever. I offer you this in the hope that you - and other writers - realize that you lose a lot of potential audience needlessly, as the first chapter of the next book is a much better inducement than a cliff-hanger! Good luck, and thank you for supporting the cause!

oursmsbook said...

G.E.Nolly thanks for sharing

Unknown said...

I too am a member of the Playboy Club. I think it was around 1985 or 86 that I actually had a story accepted by the fiction Editor Alice Turner-I believe. But at that time I was too stupid or bullheaded to make the changes she was requesting. Or I think I made a half-hearted attempt, but she didn't want to keep fooling with me. y Brother is Rich hasn't seen the light of day yet.